Chapter 8

Written by: Rosemary Wakelin

Max’s hard, rickety chair complained bitterly as he sagged into it. How long had they been there? An hour? Thirty minutes? Every second felt like an eternity. “I’ve already told you everything I know.”

“Just study it once more, Mr Hogan.”

Max stared at the pristinely dressed Japanese man sitting across from him - Agent Okada, Homeland Security – according to his silvery-gold ID badge. Flanking him, two hostile-looking, buff guys in manicured suits.

In contrast, the room was a renovator’s nightmare, a ripped out ceiling exposing rusty, bent pipes, four monotonous walls of decaying timber and torn vinyl flooring that emitted a dank, unfriendly stench.  A weakly lit light bulb swung from long, precarious wiring mere inches from the table. Several objects were laid out on its old, splintery surface. Max leant forward, again studied the objects.

A small silver key, courtesy of Mia, a security box, its contents neatly stacked next to it – twenty thousand dollars of allegedly laundered money. And lastly, Max’s damn jigsaw of photo pieces.

What did Okada expect him to find?

Max scraped his throbbing head with rough, bitten fingernails and closed his equally throbbing eyes. He needed a drink.

 Correction.

 He needed several.

“Isn't it time for my mandatory phone call… or something?”

Okada cleared his throat. “You're in a lot of trouble, Mr Hogan.”

Max laughed. His entire life had been trouble.

“But I believe you when you say that’s all you know.”

Max lifted one eyelid. That action alone caused way too much discomfort. “You do?”

Okada steepled his short, thick fingers and stared at him with dark, expressionless eyes. “You have no memory of being at that jetty.”

Max shook his head. “Only that it’s familiar.”

“It should… the shed is registered in your name.”

 Max’s eyes instantly widened. “I don't even own a damn boat! Why would I….”

Okada calmly lifted his hand and pressed the air between them. “Again, I believe you. As I do your friend, Mia. She didn't know much either, only that Stevenson had asked her to guard the key. He had taken it from you years ago… apparently you weren't to be trusted.”

Max wasn't to be trusted? “The dirty, lying b….”

“Mr Hogan,” Okada interrupted. “We know you weren't at the jetty, neither was Mia… not for that particular photo. Your images were superimposed.”

Max half-expected someone to bounce from the semi-unhinged door and say, got you. He waited hopefully. Nothing happened. “Why?”

“For the obvious reasons… to set you both up… take the fall for something that’s going to happen soon, something big.”

“But that would mean years….”

“Of planning. Yes. It’d also explain why Stevenson gave Mia the key in the first place instead of holding onto it himself.”

Max glanced at the jigsaw.

So why send him pieces of an elaborately staged photograph?

He pointed to Mia. “She is supposedly looking at Stevenson.”

Okada nodded.

Max pointed to himself.

And then at a ‘missing piece’.

“So, then, what am I looking at?”

 

 

 

 

Comments

Beautifully written, loved it!